What you dress your salad with should be as healthy as the salad itself. If you just made a green salad chocked full of vitamins and nutrients, why ruin it with a store-bought dressing that may quite possibly have refined sugars, poor quality oils and artificial flavours? And while a purchased dressing may seem convenient, a homemade version is just about one of the easiest recipes that I teach in my cooking classes.
What is so bad about store bought versions?
Store bought salad dressings are often high in calories and bad fats. And they’re often full of preservatives and chemicals added to extend their shelf life. Manufacturers make large quantities of product and in order to do so often use poor quality, cheap ingredients. Here are a few common ingredients and why you should avoid them:
- White sugar: imbalances blood sugar levels, depletes nutrients in the body and encourages weight gain.
- Poor quality oils (canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil): these become problematic when added to products that undergo light, air, and pressure. They become rancid and increase cholesterol.
- Artificial flavouring: another word for chemicals and preservatives. Even in minimal amounts these chemicals are toxic to the body
On the other hand, there are so many benefits to making your own salad dressing, such as ensuring your recipe will be: fresh, trans-fat free, preservative and chemical-free and lower in calories and fat.
Use nourishing ingredients with health-promoting ingredients
A benefit of making your own salad dressing is getting to use the finest and freshest of ingredients. Every homemade salad dressing, in my opinion, should be made up with a few key staples: a base, an acid, and a thickening agent.
Oil: Oils are used as the base of a salad dressing and to add a smooth consistency and flavour. Good quality oils contain healthy essential fat that the body cannot make on its own. These fats actually help lower cholesterol, blood sugar levels, speed up the metabolism, and protect the body form free radicals by supporting the immune system.
Try: hemp oil, flax seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil
Vinegar/acid: A little goes a long way when adding vinegar/acid to a dressing for flavour and health benefits. Vinegars add a unique taste while encouraging a healthy bowel, improving digestion, and providing the body with vitamins and nutrients. Citrus acids from lemon also support digestion and are full of minerals and vitamins. Adding citrus acids to salad greens actually helps the body absorb nutrients while providing the body with antioxidants.
Try: apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, balsamic vinegar, coconut vinegar, brown rice vinegar
Adding your own natural thickener to a salad dressing ensures that you’re not consuming cheap filler. Thickeners are helpful in emulsifying all of the ingredients together. Based on preference, you may add a sweet or savoury natural sweetener to bring out the flavour in the salad dressing. Thickening agents can be as basic as Dijon and extend to ground chia seeds to add even more omega fats.
Try: Dijon, tahini, avocado, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, honey, maple syrup
Green Goddess Dressing
1-3 cups of mixed salad greens (arugula, baby spinach, spring mix)
1 medium avocado
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
1/8 cup hemp or olive oil
1 ½ tbsp honey
½ tsp salt
1 pinch cayenne
½ garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup parsley
1/8 cup green onion
¼ cup spinach
Half the avocados, remove the pit, scoop the flesh into the blender, add everything else and blend very thoroughly.
Pour over salad to taste.
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.